Our Top 10 Car Reviews of 2016
We look back at our 10 most popular new car reviews of 2016…
THE YEAR IS almost over and so we thought we’d look back at our most popular car reviews of 2016. In some cases, we reviewed several different variants of the same model and so those reviews have been rolled into one.
Interestingly, our most popular car reviews fall into line with research we conducted earlier in the year on the types of vehicles Practical Motoring readers were most likely to buy in the next 12 months. The results revealed that SUVs were the most popular vehicle choice, followed by dual-cab utes and 4×4 wagons and then performance vehicles… passenger cars finished in last place, which reflects the current buying habits of Australian motorists.
10. Land Rover Discovery Sport
The Freelander2 replacement might have been reviewed back in 2015, but it proved to be one of our most popular reviews in 2016. We said: The Discovery Sport replaces the Freelander2 but it does much more than that. Unlike that Landie, the Discovery Sport can mix it with the best of the on-road SUV set and out-punch them all off-road. It offers the cost-optional versatility of a third row, Land Rover’s Terrain Response and a raft of clever safety features. If you’re looking for all-round versatility, then the Discovery Sport should be first on your shopping list.
9. 2016 Mazda MX-5 2.0
Here’s another one that was reviewed late in 2015 (at the Australian launch in December) yet it was a solid performer throughout 2016. And, if you’re interested, we’ll be attending the local launch of the MX-5 RF later in January. Here’s what we said about the MX-5 2.0L: The MX-5 has always been the modern definition of cheap, fun, motoring and this new ND model certainly continues that tradition with a welcome focus on light agility and driving pleasure. Small roadsters are never going to be practical, but at least this one is reasonably liveable and the daily drive will be made easier by the quality and design of the vehicle. Keen drivers should certainly pick the manual with its more immediate throttle response and limited-slip differential.
8. 2017 Volkswagen Tiguan
Reviewed at its local launch in September 2016, we gave the new Tiguan a score of 3.5/5, and said: The new Volkswagen Tiguan is available with a range of new engine and specification levels to suit just about any buyer. The pricing is good, and the fact it’s now bigger and safer than ever will and should put it on family shopping lists. That it’s a comfortable car to drive with a huge boot and practical appointments throughout, is icing on the cake.
7. 2016 Ford Ranger PX MkII
Launched in Australia in August 2015, we sent our Robert Pepper along to the local launch. Why? He owns a MkI, so, who better to work out whether the tweaks for MkII made the Ranger a better ute. The refreshed Ranger scored a 4.5/5 rating with Robert saying: Based on our launch impressions, the 2016 Ford Ranger PX Mk2 is easily the king of the 4×4 utes. More comfortable, better equipped and safer than its predecessor it’s a good base to build a work or touring 4×4.
6. 2016 Kia Sportage
The new Kia Sportage arrived in Australia in January of this year and replaced the previous good-looking variant with its new bug-eye look. That didn’t stop it from scoring a 4.5/5 rating from us. We said: The new Kia Sportage might have a love-it, or hate-it face but there’s no doubting the quality of the thing. Well put together and well specced throughout the range (except for the base models missing out on sat-nav), there’s plenty of room inside, reasonable vision and, in diesel all-wheel drive trim an excellent drive.
5. 2016 Subaru Levorg
The Subaru Levorg saw the return of a performance-oriented wagon to the Subaru range, or the arrival of a WRX in wagon clothing as some described it. And, despite Subaru’s protestations, that’s an accurate description. Overall, we liked the Levorg, but there was a lack of handling consistency from variant to variant, which saw us critical of the mid-spec GT-S variant, which represented the best value for money. We said: On the whole, the Subaru Levorg is a good machine and a worthy successor to the old Liberty GT. It adds to the WRX story rather than offers a wagon-based alternative. Our pick is definitely the GT for the way it rides, handles and feels on the limit, while the infotainment and enhanced EyeSight of the GT-S is better than that in the GT. Me, I’d go for the GT and buy a cradle for my smartphone and use the map on it… And, for the update model, Subaru, please drop the Bilsteins or do a little more work on them.
4. 2016 Honda Civic
The new Honda Civic arrived here in May and saw the trend of passenger car popularity bucked by drawing a huge amount of interest from prospective buyers. Overall, the new Civic is a step-up from its predecessor, but a lack of diversity in the drivetrains mean you’re shopping on spec only between variants. We said: The Honda Civic is one of the best-known nameplates on the planet, and this new one might just be one of the best small cars on the planet. Honda has made the new Civic roomier inside with materials and a fit and finish to rival more expensive brands, its pricing and features see it punch ahead of the pack in terms of value for money, and the fact it rides and handles so darn well is just icing on the cake.
3. 2016 Toyota Fortuner
In 2015 and 2016 we reviewed the Toyota Fortuner and based on the combined results it was one of our most popular review models. Putting it through its paces on- and off-road our Robert Pepper also broke the Fortuner’s ground clearance issue which had been reported as 279mm but after it was measured was revealed to be a class-standard 225mm. We said: The Fortuner is one of the best offroad touring wagons on the market, combining reasonable on-road manners, superb offroad capability plus Toyota’s trademark practical bushability, and we can see it stealing a lot of Prado sales. But if you don’t need the offroad ability there are cheaper and better suburban SUV alternatives, and some buyers will want a more highly-specified vehicle than Fortuner range can offer.
2. 2016 Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
Our advance drive of the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and subsequent local launch drives and longer tests saw this vehicle stand-out as the most-searched-for vehicle on Practical Motoring and our most popular single-car review throughout this year. We said: As you’d expect from a Mitsubishi with its long 4X4 history, the Pajero Sport is every inch the serious offroad vehicle, and leaves very few reasons to buy a Pajero instead. The Pajero Sport has a reasonably well-appointed interior, CarPlay/Auto fixes Mitsubishi’s infotainment unit woes, offroad performance is up there with the best, and we’ve got no concerns about bushability. Anyone looking for an off-road-capable wagon should shortlist it.
1. 2016 Toyota Hilux Vs 2016 Ford Ranger
It was the battle of the year. We’d already spruiked the Ford Ranger as being the best of the dual-cab utes (obviously, this was before the V6 Amarok arrived) and so decided to put it up against the perennial favourite, the Toyota HiLux which had also been refreshed for 2016. We said: If you’re specifically looking for a dual-cab ute than can double as a family car then, out of these two, the Ranger Wildtrak is the pick. It’s more comfortable inside, gets a more sophisticated infotainment and communications system and generally features a nicer fit and finish with better quality materials.
The Ranger Wildtrak also offers a better ride on-road and its engine is grungier and its gearbox smoother and is just generally a more refined package. That’s not to say the new HiLux is a letdown, because it isn’t, indeed, it’s easily the most comfortable and refined HiLux ever. But, in the end that’s just not good enough, and across key criteria it’s just very slightly behind the Ranger Wildtrak and so, in this case, it’s the Ranger Wildtrak that gets the nod over the very impressive Toyota HiLux SR5. But, hey, if you choose the HiLux over the Ranger, I won’t hold it against you because, as I said, it’s still a very good vehicle. And, if you’ve always been a HiLux fan then, no matter how good the Ranger is, you’ll always choose the HiLux.
In addition to these 10 car reviews, other strong performers included the Subaru Impreza which we drove both in Japan and recently here in Australia, the Haval H9 was just outside the Top 10, as was our review of the Ford Everest Titanium.
Question: Did you buy a new car in 2016? What was it, and why did you buy it?